What would a DCPS-PCSB Compact look like?

It should be obvious to loyal readers by now that I cannot stop thinking about the Amplify School Choice Conference I attended a couple of weeks ago that was sponsored and organized by the Franklin Center for Integrity for Government and Public Integrity.  My biggest takeaway from the information that was presented was that there is a significant amount of cooperation between the traditional and charter schools in Denver where the event was held. Moreover, I was not only told about the ways that the two sectors work together; I witnessed it first-hand during visits to Strive Preparatory and Denver School of Science and Technology Public Charter Schools.

The basis of the link between Denver’s district and charter schools is the District-Charter Collaboration Compact, which I learned from a Thomas B. Fordham Institute study is a Gates Foundation initiative. In late 2015, the Institute published a report by Daniela Doyle, Christen Holly, and Bryan Hassel that examined the relationships between traditional and charter schools in four cities: Boston, Cleveland, Denver, and Washington, D.C.  While the authors found a wide variation in the intersection of traditional and choice schools, it did offer some starting points for building a foundation for bringing the two sides closer together.

In the five categories of “Improve Communication,” “Improve Practice,” “Improve Operational Efficiency,” “Provide More Equitable Access to Existing Schools,” and “Increase Supply of High-Quality Schools across the City” the paper includes direct recommendations for forging stronger relationships.  Almost all of these specific actions were already in place in Denver such as using a common tool to evaluate all schools, development of a unified enrollment lottery, and the sharing of facilities.

For something that on the surface looked hard initially to implement, I believe the Fordham study and the Denver District Collaboration Compact offer a tremendous basis for building a solid bridge between DCPS and charters.

Now we just have to see if there is a will to move in this direction.

 

John Oliver’s demeaning segment on charter schools

It’s not enough that here in the District of Columbia we had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to hear highly inaccurate statements about charter schools from Elizabeth Davis, the president of the Washington Teachers’ Union.  Our movement was hit again just last Sunday evening when comedian John Oliver spent over 18 minutes tearing apart these innovative public institutions.

I will leave it up to people like my friend Nelson Smith, senior advisor to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and others such as the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, to point out that the statistics used by Mr. Oliver regarding student academic achievement are outdated and wrong.  His commentary struck a pretty significant chord so I will concentrate on a personal reaction to the piece.

Many will state that the problems he highlights are the exception rather than the rule.  But they are much more than a variance.  The stories he discussed are by miles directly opposite from my 20 years of experience with the numerous heroes that on a daily basis have unselfishly shared their time, money, and talent to improve the education of children with whom they have no connection.  They go to work simply because of their passionate and stubborn understanding that every student can learn.  A great number of the kids that they help, if it was not for their efforts, would most likely end up in jail or worse because that has been the pattern for those living at the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

To say that these pupils were not well served before the charter movement came about does not depict in any sense the recent history of the total collapse of public education in the nation’s capital.  We had a system that did not provide textbooks, could not say for certain how many employees worked for it, had buildings in which walls were crumbling by the hour, and characterized by hallways crowded with gangs, weapons, and drugs.  It was often safer for parents to keep their kids home than send them to school.

Much has greatly improved in the last two decades because of the competition for students that charters have provided.  But there is much more that has to be done.  Let me state this as plainly as I can.  Charters now consistently outperform DCPS academically while simultaneously continuing to struggle to obtain permanent facilities, and while being funded at a level $100 million a year less than the traditional schools.  Even if a charter obtains a shuttered DCPS facility it must practically beg a financial entity to lend it money based upon its per pupil revenue to fix the structure.  You see, these buildings are turned over to charters missing even the copper pipes used to carry running water.  For this opportunity charters get the privilege of paying rent.

Yet, for sending students to college who in the past would be dead, we get comments such as those by Ms. Davis that are not challenged by one public official in our city.  Not one.  It is enough to drive those working in charters to go home and figure out something else to do.

But they won’t because that simply would not be right.  They will continue to get up at 4 a.m. and not leave the office until the sun goes down seven days a week because that is what they are about.  Anything less would not be serving our children.

 

 

School year begins with another verbal attack on D.C. charters

Today begins year 21 of public education reform in Washington, D.C., and I’m afraid we are not getting off to a tremendous start.  Our dynamic leader of DCPS, Chancellor Kaya Henderson, has resigned her post and then, while I was in Denver for the Amplify School Choice conference hosted by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Elizabeth Davis, the president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, attacked Walmart for giving away gift cards to cover classroom supply expenses.  The reason for her tirade?  Walmart is owned by the Walton Family who fund the Walton Foundation that supports charter schools and educational freedom across the country, including here in the nation’s capital.  Ms. Davis accuses the foundation, through its support of charters, of promoting the privatization of public education in America and of diverting desperately needed dollars away from traditional schools.

Over the two days of lectures at the conference I came to understand that behavior such as this would almost certainly not have been exhibited by Denver’s teachers’ union chief, and if by some highly unusual circumstance similar words had been spoken, it would not be tolerated.  As I pointed out previously, in Denver charters and the regular schools get along.  The center of this cooperation is the District-Charter Collaboration Compact.  It is an agreement  we desperately need here.

Let’s look at some of the language of this document that was signed by both traditional and charter school leaders back in 2010.  It begins:

“We believe that all students can achieve and deserve the highest quality public schools.  We believe that it is the collective responsibility of all schools – district, charter, performance, magnet, or innovation – to ensure all students have access to excellent education that successfully prepares them for college and career.  These opportunities must be available to all students in all socioeconomics, language, citizenship status, or special needs of students.  We believe that our students and parents should be able to exercise choice among high-performing schools in their neighborhoods and across the city.”

The paragraph is so perfectly written and the goals so directly expressed that it brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.

The compact then goes on to talk about specific joint commitments from district and charter schools.  Here are a couple, and I am not making these up:

“The children living withing Denver do not belong to a particular district school or to a particular charter school – the children in Denver are all our children.  Expect all schools to meet or exceed district-wide performance standards that are rigorous, consistent, and transparent.  Collaborate to refine and improve the School Performance Framework,” and

“Embrace the opportunity and need to help the most effective schools reach substantially greater levels of scale, whether those schools are district-run or charter schools, thereby increasing the number of high performing seats in the district.”

I imagine that if this language was in place here the dozen or so existing surplus DCPS facilities would have long ago been turned over to charters.  What do charters need to do as part of this accord?  Here are some examples:

“To the greatest extent possible and without restricting opportunities for new schools arising outside of district plans, commit to locating new schools in the highest-need areas, aligned to district plans and connected to district feeder patterns,” and

“Commit to highlighting the partnership with Denver Public Schools in newsletters, marketing materials, and special events and when speaking with the media.”

There are a total of seven standards for charters, eight for district schools, and ten that are shared.  For the traditional sector these institutions must, among other things:

“Commit to ensuring equitable resources for charter schools.  This includes not only per pupil revenue, but, to the greatest extent possible, an equitable share of all other district resources including Title funds, existing bond funds, application opportunities for future bond funds, mill levy funds, curriculum and materials purchased with federal funds, and grants for programs that could benefit charters,” and

“Commit to broadly informing district and charter school students and families about all of the choice options available to them and developing and implementing a common enrollment system that allows families to easily exercise these choice options.”

Mayor Bowser’s DC Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force is about halfway through its allotted time span to develop recommendations for how our city’s charters and DCPS can better unite their efforts.  I therefore have some fantastic news.  The group could save a tremendous amount of deliberation by simply copying Denver’s District-Charter Collaboration Compact.

 

8,640 kids on D.C. charter school waitlists are 8,640 too many

The DC Public Charter School Board is touting the fact that four new charter schools are opening this school year.  These are Breakthrough Montessori PCS, Washington Leadership Academy PCS, Goodwill Excel Center PCS, and Rocketship Rise Academy PCS.  The total number of seats these institutions will provide at this time is 985.

Please excuse me if I don’t jump up and down about the news.  It has been estimated by the PCSB that there are 8,640 students on charter school waitlists for the 2016 to 2017 term, an increase of 1.3 percent from last year.  This is an incredibly frustrating situation.

What is a parent of one of these children on a waitlist supposed to do?  For all you charter supporters out there we are sending a clear message that the answer may be to get out of town.  When my children were small my wife and I would do anything we needed to do to obtain a quality education for them.  There is perhaps nothing more important to increase the odds of them enjoying a successful life.   I can only imagine the agonizing conversations around the dinner table about what steps to take when as a mom or dad you cannot get your son or daughter into the school of your choice.

In addition, the situation is only going to get worse.  At this rate of opening new spots it would take almost nine years to eliminate the waitlist.  But more and more people are moving into our city.  Scott Pearson, the PCSB executive director, estimated that the nation’s capital will need 50 new schools in the next 10 years.  The way things are going we are almost guaranteeing these will be DCPS facilities.

During the last school year charters enrolled 44.5 percent of all public school students.  This number has been about the same for several terms.  But if charters were able to absorb all kids on waitlists they would be educating just a fraction shy of half of all pupils in public schools.  Reaching the 50 percent mark would dramatically change the political landscape for these innovative schools.

We are fortunate in that we have some really smart people living in our community.  I bet that the heads of FOCUS, the DC PCSB, CityBridge Foundation, Building Hope, Ten Square, New Schools Venture Fund, the D.C. Association of Public Chartered Schools, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the Center for Education Reform can solve this puzzle.  Please remember that our Deputy Mayor for Education, Jennie Niles, founded E.L. Haynes PCS, one of the leading charters in our town.

When it comes to the charter school waitlist, enough is really enough.

The academic achievement gap in D.C. might be much wider than we think

A fascinating article by Susan Dynarski, a professor of education, politics, and economics at the University of Michigan, appeared in the New York Times Business Section last Sunday that made the case that the academic achievement gap in this country is actually much wider than has been estimated.  Here is the basis of her argument:

“Nearly half of students nationwide are eligible for a subsidized meal in school. Children whose families earn less than 185 percent of the poverty threshold are eligible for a reduced-price lunch, while those below 130 percent get a free lunch. For a family of four, the cutoffs are $32,000 for a free lunch and $45,000 for a reduced-price one. By way of comparison, median household income in the United States was about $54,000 in 2014.”

The author’s point is that when the public school academic achievement gap between the affluent and poor is measured in this country, the classification for children as low-income is made when they come from families qualifying for free or reduced lunch.  But in the preceding paragraph Ms. Dynarski illustrates that the cutoff for the definition of poverty is not far from the median household income level.  She takes her assertion further:

“In Michigan, as in the rest of the country, about half of eighth graders in public schools receive a free or reduced-price lunch. But when we look more closely, we see that just 14 percent have been eligible for subsidized meals every year since kindergarten. These children are the poorest of the poor — the persistently disadvantaged.”

Professor Dynarski’s conclusion:  “The achievement gap between persistently disadvantaged children and those who were never disadvantaged is about a third larger than the gap that is typically measured.”

This statistic has practical results when it comes to the classroom.  When Ms. Dynarski looked at the differences in academic standing for eighth graders in math she found a two-year deficit for those qualifying for free or reduced meals but a three-year difference for the chronically disadvantaged.  In addition, this gap did not first manifest itself when the students made it to the eighth grade.  Ms. Dynarski determined that for persistently poor kids the knowledge variance was there in the third grade.  Moreover, when it comes to these pupils, living in poverty can be traced back to the time that they were in kindergarten.

Here in the nation’s capital, last year’s first administration of the PARCC assessment clearly demonstrated the city’s stubborn and highly disturbing academic achievement gap. In English language arts the variance between white and economically disadvantaged students was 79 percent and 14 percent, respectively, in the college readiness score of four and above.  That is a difference of 65 points with charter schools scoring only slightly better than DCPS.  For math the achievement gap is slightly lower with white students at 70 percent in level four and above and poor pupils at 15 percent for a span of 55 points, with charters results again somewhat narrower.

However, if we are to believe the thesis of Professor Dynarski, the real variation between these results is a third higher for the chronically disadvantaged.  These academic achievement gaps would then grow to a shocking 86.7 percent in English and 73.3 percent in math.

Why is this important?  Ms. Dynarski opines that “many federal, state and local programs distribute money based on the share of a district’s students who are eligible for subsidized meals. But schools that have identical shares of students eligible for subsidized meals may differ vastly in the share of students who are deeply poor. The schools with the most disadvantaged children have greater challenges and arguably need more resources.”

What all this means in Washington, D.C. after 20 years of hard-fought public school reform is impossible to say.

D.C.’s charter school movement can learn much from Denver, Colorado

I spent perhaps two of the most exhilarating days of my life last week as I, together with 49 other education bloggers, was invited to attend the Amplify School Choice 2016 Conference held in Denver, Colorado. The event was sponsored and expertly facilitated by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a public interest nonprofit centered on investigative journalism that is based in Alexandria, Virginia.  Picture this:  a full morning and afternoon of lectures about the current state of school choice in Denver and across the nation from representatives of leading organizations such as the Institute for Justice, the Independence Institute, and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (now EdChoice).  The program’s agenda included a site visit to a couple of high performing local charter schools.  To say that I was a kid let loose in a candy store may be the understatement of the century.

The program began with a fine talk by Dan Schaller, director of advocacy of the Colorado League of Charter Schools.  Think of his group as the Denver version of FOCUS.  From the very first sentence of Mr. Schaller’s presentation I could see that the situation with charters in Colorado is much different from the environment in Washington, D.C., and almost as immediately, I discovered that we have much to learn from their experience.  The main takeaway from his talk, and I hope you are sitting down, is that the traditional and charter schools in Denver get along.  In fact, they oftentimes share educational campuses that were built for them utilizing bond financing by the school district.  The Denver School District is the authorizer of both traditional and charter schools.

Now you may be thinking that this is only the opinion of Mr. Schaller, but in this you would be mistaken.  The same viewpoint was expressed by Colorado General Assembly House Representative Angela Williams, Stand for Children policy manager Chelsea Henkel, and Denver School of Science and Technology chief executive officer Bill Kurtz.

Before explaining the reason for the collaboration allow me to provide some background on the Denver charter school movement.  Charter schools in the mile high city started similarly to the experience in the nation’s capital.  The education system was facing a crisis.  As Mr. Schaller detailed, in the mid-2000s Denver Public Schools had the poorest academic growth of any of the mid-sized or big school districts in Colorado.  There were 31,000 vacant seats out of a total of 98,000 open spots.  Under 39 percent of high school students graduated in four years.  Parents were voting with their feet; 25 percent of kids left Denver Public Schools to attend private institutions, charter schools, or enroll in other districts.  The result was a loss to DPS of $125 million a year.

To the rescue came school superintendent, now U.S. Senator, Michael Bennet.  Some will say that his primary contribution was to decentralize decision making to the school level.  But I see his efforts concentrated in a different direction.

Mr. Bennet’s major accomplishment was to institutionalize the value of equal treatment of the charter and traditional school sectors.  In 2008 he helped institute a sophisticated School Performance Framework, similar to the DC Public Charter School Board’s Performance Management Framework, that graded all schools in a transparent manner.  The following year DPS initiated a Request for Proposal process to provide an incentive for the formation of quality schools.  Innovative Schools were created, which are traditional public schools given much of the independence charter schools possess.  Following Mr. Bennet’s appointment to the Senate, a Collaboration Compact was formed in 2010 which provided the same funding, facilities, accountability, and enrollment process to the two sectors.  This led in 2012 to a common application tool being implemented called SchoolChoice, similar to My School DC.

Since 2005, according to Mr. Schaller, “DPS has closed or replaced 48 schools and opened more than 70, the majority of them charters.”  Low performing charters have also been shuttered.  For example, during the 2010 to 2011 school year 25 percent of schools up for renewal were closed.  Today there are 55 charter schools in Denver out of a total of 223, teaching 18.3 percent of all public school students.

The results of these initiatives have been nothing short of amazing.  The Denver Public School system is now the fastest growing urban district in America.  The high school graduation rate has jumped to 65 percent in four years.  From 2004 to 2014, the proportion of students at or above grade level in reading, math, and writing has climbed from 33 percent to 48 percent.

Now don’t get me wrong, everything is not perfect in Denver regarding the state of public education.  Conflict does still occasionally arise between the regular and traditional schools.  Charters are closed much more commonly than regular schools, although there has been a renewed commitment to hold them to the same standards.  Furthermore, academically, only 50 percent of minority students and 25 percent of low income pupils perform at grade level for all subject areas.

Still, consistently throughout the conference you could feel the strong cohesion between the two sectors.  When I asked for the reason behind this emphasis on cooperation I received the same answer no matter which stakeholder I questioned.  “We are all in this together for the children,” they responded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travesty of justice regarding Options Public Charter School

Today, the Washington Post’s Emma Brown reports that United States Attorney Channing Phillips has closed the criminal case against the past managers of Options Public Charter School without bringing charges.  These are the individuals who were accused of diverting over $3 million in public funds for their own benefit from the school serving severely emotionally and physically disabled children.

The case started in 2013 when it was revealed that Donna Montgomery, along with David Cranford and Paul Dalton, established two companies, Exceptional Education Management Corp. (EEMC) and Exceptional Education Services (EES) that then struck highly lucrative contracts with the charter.  For example, according to Ms. Brown, EES charged $981,250 for transportation services that previously cost the school $70,000 from another vendor.  At the time Ms. Montgomery’s salary and bonuses to run the two for-profit firms was about $425,000.  There was also a $2.8 million management agreement between EEMC and EES to run Options PCS.

The situation engulfed others in our community.  Former Channel 9 newscaster J.C. Hayward was chair of the Options board of directors when the contracts with the private companies were signed.  It was alleged that Ms. Hayward was paid $8,500 every time she attended a board meeting of the school.  The criminal complaint also said that she helped incorporate one of the involved organizations and held stock in it.  Ms. Hayward was placed on leave when the news about Options broke, and retired at the start of 2015 after 43 years on the air.  She was removed from the court case last year.

Also involved was Jeremy Williams, the highly respected member of the staff of the DC Public Charter School Board.  He was believed to have been paid $150,000 when he was the chief financial officer to hide the agreements between Options and the two companies from PCSB oversight.

Josh Kern, the co-founder of Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS, became the Court’s Receiver for Options once the legal matter started.  In his role at the Ten Square Group he expertly guided the charter to its eventual strong resurgence as Kingsman Academy PCS.  Joe Bruno, the president of Building Hope, became the Court-appointed Receiver for EEMC and EES.

The mess at Options and at the Dorothy I. Height Community Academy PCS resulted in legislation being passed this year by the D.C. Council giving the PCSB power in certain circumstances to look at the financial records of charter school management organizations.

It is horrible that after all of this time and effort by so many good people to fix the problems around Options, and to properly serve those kids that few want to serve, that Ms. Montgomery and the others would get off so easily.  It practically broadcasts a message that what they did with public dollars was perfectly fine.  Let’s sincerely hope that this decision by U.S. Attorney Phillips does not establish precedent for others to emulate.

Ms. Brown indicates that the city is still pursuing a civil case against Options.

The DC Public Charter School Board Summer Graduation Ceremony

This past Tuesday the DC Public Charter School Board held its first ever Summer High School Graduation Ceremony honoring about 60 seniors at the Thurgood Marshall Center in Northwest Washington, D.C.

The room for the event was packed with school leaders, teachers, parents and relatives of the students.  David Grosso, the chairman of the D.C. Council’s education committee was in attendance.  The Master of Ceremonies was Walter Deleion, who holds the dual distinctions of being the youngest elected representative in the nation’s capital as an ANC Commissioner and being a graduate of Washington Latin PCS.

Naomi Rubin DeVeaux, the deputy director of the PCSB, kicked off the ceremony, beaming as she explained to the enthusiastic audience that graduation events such as this are the reason she comes to work everyday.  The quick-paced agenda included a Presentation of the Colors by IDEA PCS’s Junior ROTC, a highly emotional signing of the National Anthem by Angela Moore, an operations assistant at the PCSB, and a poem by Michael Moore from National Collegiate Preparatory PCS.

The keynote address was provided by Quentin Liggins, the acting executive director of the D.C. region for Leading Educators, a group that provides teacher leadership training to improve the quality of classroom instruction.  Mr. Liggins spoke eloquently about the power of perseverance, asking the matriculating seniors to go boldly forward in life by having a vision for their future, to win or learn but never lose, and to not be afraid to ask for help.  His third piece of advice echoed a similar recommendation offered by Ms. DeVeaux.

Following Mr. Liggins were some remarks by Dr. Darren Woodruff, the PCSB chair.  Dr. Woodruff commented to me about the graduation ceremony, “This year marks the 20th year that public charter schools have been in Washington, DC. Our first ever summer graduation is a fitting way to kick off the celebration and put a spot light on the accomplishments of all of our graduates.”

The names of each of the graduates was then read aloud by Scott Pearson, the PCSB executive director, to wild cheers from the audience as each scholar dressed in their graduation cap and gown traversed the stage.  It was about the classiest sixty minutes that you will ever see.

 

 

Lars Beck stepping down from Scholars Academies

An item on the agenda of last night’s monthly meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board caught my eye.  All it said was “DC Scholars PCS – Governance Structure Amendment.”  Of course, I’m extremely familiar with DC Scholars PCS.  The pre-Kindergarten to seventh grade school is one of two in Washington, D.C. that utilizes Scholars Academies as its management company, and whose founding board chair was Mieka Wick, the executive director of the CityBridge Foundation.   Interestingly, Scholars Academies also manages Stanton Elementary, a DCPS facility with grades pre-Kindergarten to five.  These institutions have something extremely important in common.  Both DC Scholars PCS and Stanton Elementary specialize in teaching children living in poverty.  Each school population is comprised of 100 percent of students coming from low income households.  So to find out what was going on I called Lars Beck, Scholars Academies’ CEO.  What I learned greatly surprised me.

Mr. Beck explained that Scholars Academies is taking the highly unusual move of dissolving it central corporate structure.  He related that more than a year ago the organization figured out that it could be much more responsive to the schools being served by bringing management closer to those it assists.  Therefore, the decision was made to give up the main office and create three regional centers, with each given the autonomy to make decisions about how best to serve students in that particular area.

Just as I was about to compliment Mr. Beck about how innovative I thought this approach was, since I don’t think up to now I’ve ever heard anything similar to a home office deciding to voluntarily give up authority over those under it, he hit me with a bombshell.  “I’ve decided to leave Scholars Academies,” Mr. Beck informed me.

In fact, it was Mr. Beck’s move that prompted the strategic discussion leading to the conclusion that students and parents would best be served by Scholars Academies separating into three regional networks.

I first met Mr. Beck a couple of years ago.  He impressed me from the second I introduced myself with his sincere interest in helping those that others had abandoned.  From my interview which took place in April, 2014:

“I came from the business world,” Mr. Beck answered. “My job was marketing and management for a firm in Canada. My mom for years ran a private faith-based school in Philadelphia for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds characterized by exceedingly strong academic results. I wanted to do more with my life and the inequities between people of various races and income levels continuously gnawed at me.”

Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan described the work being done at Stanton Elementary as “remarkable.”  Mayor Gray commented that “We simply need to bottle this and figure out how to proliferate it all around the city.” Kaya Henderson has said that she wants to replicate what is taking place there.  Academic proficiency rates have doubled from the absolute bottom of the ladder.  But almost more importantly, Mr. Beck portrayed the school as one in which a culture of high performance has now infused the building.

Mr. Beck relayed that he will leave in September and that after 13 years in his current position he has no real plans for what he will do next.  It is a supreme understatement to say he will be missed.  Again from our interview:

All of these educational endeavors regarding improving the lives of the less fortunate are consistent with the life-long efforts of Mr. Beck’s mother. “Our drive is to transform low performing schools,” Mr. Beck commented towards the end of our discussion. “We believe in what is possible for students and then we try and let them realize their hopes and dreams.”

 

William E. Doar, Jr. PCS to change name to City Arts & Prep

Tonight at the monthly meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board a vote will be taken to change the name on August 1, 2016 of the William E. Doar, Jr. PCS to City Arts and Prep PCS.

The move makes sense since none of the creators of WEDJ are currently associated with the school.  Julie Doar-Sinkfield, Mr. Doar’s daughter, who was the first board chair and executive director, had a public battle with the charter in 2011 when she and the two original founders, Mary Robbins and Nadia Casseus-Torney, attempted to wrestle control of the school from its board of directors.  The issue made it to D.C. Superior Court with a judge issuing a restraining order blocking the three women from involvement with the charter before they decided to drop their effort.  WEDJ received legal assistance from Stephen Marcus, the same attorney who is now facilitating the FOCUS engineered lawsuit against the city regarding inequity charter school funding, and ironically, the lawyer who negotiated WEDJ’s original lease with the landlord at 705 Edgewood Street, N.E.

Despite all of the controversy I hate to see the change.  I was part of the founding group of the school who met in Ms. Doar’s basement apartment on Capitol Hill over a decade ago to write the charter.  She cooked dinner for us as we sought to develop the best charter school the nation’s capital had ever seen.  I went on to succeed Ms. Doar as WEDJ’s board chair for five years.

I never met Mr. Doar since he passed away in 1982.  But he was obviously a remarkable man.  Here is a small portion of his biography:

“During his lifetime, he took steps to initiate the desegregation of facilities at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and is responsible for placing the first African-American doctor on its staff. He was a member continuously since 1945 of the United Bowling League of Brooklyn, the league most responsible for the integration of the American Bowling Congress. He helped to bring about the integration of the Nursing School at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital and was responsible for placing the first black youth in the biology laboratory of that hospital. He worked with the late Congressman Adam Powell in integrating the stores on 125th Street in Harlem. With the New York State Employment Service he brought the discrimination at Bell Telephone Laboratories and Western Electric to a halt with the cooperation of the NAACP.”

Mr. Doar was a member of the Kappa Beta Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity for over 48 years, holding a variety of leadership positions.  His involvement led in 1995 to the international headquarters of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity on Kennedy Street, N.W. to be named the William E. Doar, Jr. Building.

While I did not get the chance to know him I spent many hours with his wife.  I found Mrs. Doar to be the epitome of class and kindness.  She has a fantastic sense of humor which she expresses with a broad smile.  I especially welcomed that look when Julie would become completely frustrated when she couldn’t get people to do exactly as she wanted.

Julie, as well as Mary and Nadia, taught me so much about charters, regarding both pedagogy and governance.  The potential of these individuals to do good in the world was never more evident than on one of the annual faculty performances that we held as fundraisers.  We spoke of everything that was being accomplished at the school and everything that was still be be done.  We laughed at the joy being brought to us by those gathered in the room.

And we talked about William E. Doar, Jr.